Marin could limit new short-term rentals on the coast

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County officials are proposing a temporary moratorium on new short-term rentals in West Marin in an effort to address the housing shortage.

Short term rentals are 30 days or less. They were made popular through services such as Airbnb and VRBO. The order, which is expected to be presented to the Supervisory Board at its May 24 meeting, would ban new listings and short-term rental licenses for at least 45 days. The moratorium could be extended for up to two years.

If the moratorium is approved, landowners with short-term rental licenses could continue to operate. However, if a licensee sells the property during the moratorium, that license expires at the point of sale and the new owner will not be able to re-register the property, said county planning officer Sarah Jones.

Stinson Beach on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

Jones said residents have expressed concerns about the impact of short-term rentals on housing stock, rental prices and home sales.

“There is an emergency in West Marin,” Jones said of the ban, proposed only for coastal communities. “Our intention is to stabilize housing so that we know what base we are working with so that we can do analytical work and develop long-term policy.”

County staffers should take up to two years to study the issue before proposing long-term policy changes, Jones said. Any policy that comes out of that study would apply to the entire unincorporated county, she said.

If passed, the moratorium will apply to properties in the “West Marin Transitional Occupancy Tax Area,” which was established after Measure W was passed in 2018. This measure increased the tax to transient occupancy, which is paid for by visitors who are staying on a short-term basis. rentals, from 10% to 14%.

Half of that revenue, or about $1.2 million, is used to improve fire and emergency services in West Marin. The other half is used to support long-term community housing.

Areas include Dillon Beach, Tomales, San Geronimo Valley, Nicasio, Muir Beach, Stinson Beach and Bolinas. The areas include 551 properties with commercial short-term rental licenses, said county planner Kathleen Kilgariff.

According to county assessor records, approximately 5,250 lots in West Marin are developed with one or more residences. Short-term rentals make up approximately 10% of West Marin’s housing stock.

Fewer homes available means fewer locals working in service industries, fewer volunteers in fire departments, fewer school enrollments and less funding to maintain vital community services, Jones said.

In a letter to the county, the Bolinas Community Land Trust said short-term rentals had negative impacts. The organization has a waiting list of approximately 200 individuals or families looking for accommodation in West Marin. Half of them are residents of Bolinas or Stinson Beach or former residents who have been displaced. Many live in homes that are too small for their families.

“Landlords who still want to offer long-term rentals have an incentive to rent at higher costs” because of short-term rental rates, the letter says. “Short-term rental market earnings are at the heart of the inflated market for home sales and long-term rentals in Bolinas.”

Safety is another concern, Jones said. Many visitors staying in rentals are unaware of emergency escape routes and natural hazards.

Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, whose district includes West Marin, said the community has identified short-term rentals as a problem since it was first elected to the board in 2016.

“People can take a house, buy it, and use it for short-term rentals — basically commercial use in a residential area — and drive up property prices,” Rodoni said.

Regarding policy changes, Rodoni said “everything is on the table,” adding that the challenge is to maintain a balance between visitors and full-time residents.

“If we lose that balance, we’re going to lose the character of the community, which is why visitors come here in the first place,” Rodoni said.

Landlords can still register their accommodation as a short-term rental until 5 p.m. on the day the ordinance is passed. More information at bit.ly/3Fzr0zY.

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